For our first hike in Torres del Paine National Park we decided to take on the most popular hike to the base of the Torres del Paine. The route I had mapped out before included the entire circuit, since we were originally planning on running the “W” in a day (logistics and tired legs prevented us from doing it), so I quickly remapped the route just up to the base of Las Torres and included the trail up to Valle Silencio in case we wanted a little extra challenge.
We made it to breakfast as they were opening the doors and departed Patagonia Camp promptly at 7 am. Google said it would take 1.5 hours to drive the 65 km (~40 miles) and we had no idea what kind of road we would be driving on. The driving was slow going, thanks to the complete and utter darkness and the winding dirt road. We did stop to witness one of the most amazing sunrises we saw on our trip and it was a simple roadside mirador. Even with the sunrise stop we still made it to the free parking lot by 9 am.
On my mapping software it looked like the free parking was at the end of the road where the trail started. Unfortunately, the road was gated about 1.5 km from the end of the road. We started off following the road but quickly diverted to trails on the side to avoid the dust of the passing vans and cars. Unfortunately that meant we missed the signs pointing to the trailhead and ended up on a dead end dirt road above the Hotel Las Torres. Luckily we could see hikers on the trail below and were able to navigate our way our the hotel the actual start of the trail.
The trail was surprisingly flat for a short distance before the climbing section began. After crossing Rio Ascencio the trail begins to climb for real up an eroded and well braided trail. There are signs everywhere asking hikers to follow the orange posts but apparently the swarms of people that take the Base of Las Torres hike as well as the “W” and the “Circuit” don’t usually follow the marked trail. The trail is hurting because of it. Anyways, the trail climbed 1,000 feet in about 1.3 miles before reaching Paso del Viento (windy pass).
At this point the trail starts heading downhill towards Refugio Chileno and into Valle Ascencio. The views are expansive both into and out of the valley so we took a minute to appreciate them. As we descended to the Refugio we noticed tons of large groups hanging around outside. Most of them we saw later along the trail going up as we were coming down from the top. We didn’t dawdle long because we didn’t want to risk being stuck behind a large group unnecessarily.
Based on my admittedly limited research, I thought the trail started up towards the towers after the Refugio. That was not the case. Instead the trail trended upwards, but also included lots of downward sections, only gaining about 400 feet in 2 miles. After we passed the turnoff for the camping the climbing began in earnest. At this point, we had already climbed the 2000 feet I thought we had to climb for the whole hike and we were still 1600 below the elevation I knew we needed to get to at the base of las Torres. Luckily the trail went straight up the scree field and didm’t mess around with any switchbacks. At least until we got the very top and the trail started traversing the scree field. Jason and I joked that the Argentinian trail builders would have built the trail straight to the lookout without the unnecessary traversing!
As we climbed up the last section, the full view was opened up before us. The Torres towered above the blue-green glacial Lago Torres. The clouds that had been thick overhead all day cleared almost completely around the towers and showed them in their full beauty. We wandered around a little bit and even saw a little red fox come running down the scree right up next to man sitting on the rocks eating a snack! We found shelter in our rocks since the wind had picked up and the temperature felt like it had dropped after we stopped eating. We even bundled up in our down jackets, hat, and gloves!
After a “delicious” snack of plain bread, without the peach jam I lugged all the way up there since we didn’t have any way to get it on the bread (we later decided to just dip the bread in the jam which worked pretty well), we headed back down. On the way down it looked like rain was heading our direction so we hurried down. The more we descended the warmer we got and we quickly shed all the extra layers we had donned at the top. Back at the Refugio, there were horses everywhere, waiting to take people down who didn’t think their legs could carry them the rest of the way down. There was a fee of course of 45,000 CLP (around $70 USD)! After making back to the car we drove back to Patagonia Camp for our final night there, excited about the prospect of planning a couple post-dinner games of Uno with our newfound friends who were there celebrating their 75th and 68th birthdays!
Hike Stats: 13.8 miles, 4,514 feet of elevation, 6:01 total time (4:33 moving time), details on Strava